Vegetables & Fruits
Most vegetable plants prefer moist, mild climates. From this standpoint, Turkey has extensive land suitable for cultivating vegetables, and as a result, different parts of the country are devoted to the cultivation of different types of vegetables. Although green leafy vegetables have traditionally been grown in Turkey’s western regions, recently irrigation and hydroponics have opened up other areas to their cultivation as well.
Turkish cuisine is quite rich in its use of vegetables. Both the use of a wide variety of vegetables and the wealth of manners of preparation are indicative of the richness of Turkish cuisine.
A member of the squash family (Cucurbitaceae), this long, ribbed, and rarely fuzzy vegetable resembles a cucumber but is actually a species of melon. It is also known as hıta. It is mostly used in southeastern Turkey, where it is pickled.
This is a plant of the mustard family (Brassicaceae) with leaves resembling those of radishes. Its leaves are made into salad, and are also a popular accompaniment to fried or grilled fish. It is frequently used as a garnish as well.
A flowering species of the genus Asparagus with several upright or vining, smooth stems. Its Turkish name means “birds do not land on it.” Its leaves are small and needlelike. The flowers are borne singly or doubly in the leaf margins. Used regionally in soups and salads, it is also commonly eaten raw.
In the daisy family (Compositae), the artichoke is a large thistle-like plant 50-100 cm in height with tough grey-green leaves and large blue/purple flowers. The flowers which appear above the leaves as well as the stems are meaty and dense. In Turkish cuisine it is mostly known in the Aegean region and İstanbul. Prepared in olive oil dishes with celeriac, fava beans, or stuffed, it is classified as a meze or appetizer.
In the same family as spinach (Chenopodiaceae), the original species of this herbaceous plant grows wild along the shores of the Aegean and Mediterranean. Its leaves are substantial with thick stems. There are several varieties with widely differing characteristics.
Beets (Kırmızı Pancar): A variety with a thick root used as a vegetable.
Sugar Beets (Şeker Pancarı): A variety with large heavy roots, commonly grown in Turkey for the production of sugar.
Chards (Pazı): A variety bearing large flat leaves similar to those of spinach.
A plant in the mustard family (Brassicaceae) with large flat leaves, grown as a fall and winter vegetable. There are many different varieties, several of which are used in Turkish cuisine. White and red cabbage are two common varieties. The wide leaves are ideal for stuffing but are also used in other main dishes and soups. Kale, another variety of the same species, is known as “black cabbage” (kara lahana) and is ubiquitous in Black Sea cuisine. Red cabbage is only used in salads. Pickled white cabbage is an important staple of Turkish tables.
Carrots are the conical root of a plant in the celery family (Apiaceae), cultivated mainly as a vegetable. In Turkey, it is used as an ingredient in other dishes, and also made into salads and pickles. There are yellow, orange, and purple varieties. It is often used to add color to pickles. There are many different varieties of carrot pickles in southern Anatolia. Due to its sweet flavor, it can be eaten fresh and is also used in certain sweets.
In the mustard family (Brassicaceae), cauliflower has cabbage-like leaves, and the part consumed is the dense mass of developing flower buds. It is cooked with tomato sauce and ground meat, and is mostly used in western Turkey.
A plant in the celery family (Apiaceae) with leaves resembling those of parsley but heavier and more robust. The large, yellowish root has an irregular surface. Not a staple vegetable in Turkish cuisine, celeriac is most popular in western Turkey and in İstanbul, where it is cooked in a meat dish and served cold as an olive oil dish.
Known in Turkish as hindiba, frenk salatası, radika, and endiv, chicory is a plant in the daisy family (Asteraceae) with divided leaves and sky-blue, daisy-like flowers. The leaves are eaten steamed and served with lemon and oil as a salad, as well as in hot dishes. In Turkey, mostly wild chicory is used. Its leaves are gathered in spring and used as a medicinal herb and as a vegetable.
The cucumber is a member of the squash family (Cucurbitaceae), with fruits that are mostly long and green with many seeds. It is eaten on its own or used in pickles and salads. Although it is grown throughout Turkey, various varieties are preferred in different regions, each with its own flavor. In İstanbul, the most famous varieties are Çengelköy and Langa.
A vegetable with black or purple skin and small seeds. A member of the nightshade family (Solanaceae), the plant thrives in moist soils and hot weather. Turkish food makes very rich use of eggplants; it appears in such varied foods as pilaf, salad, kebab, pickles, and even jams. There are various shapes and sizes of eggplant according to region. The main varieties that are grown in Turkey are mor patlican and Adana patlıcanı (oblong, light purple and black varieties, respectively), and bostan and kemer (large, oblong black varieties).
Garlic is a bulb-forming plant in the lily family (Liliaceae) with leaves that are 25-50 cm tall. Garlic is very popular in Turkish cooking for its special aroma and flavor, and is consumed at all stages, from the green scallion stage to a fresh bulb to the mature/dry form. In its dry form, it also adds sweetness to a dish. It is frequently used in pickling recipes.
This low, spreading species of knotweed (Polygonum cognatum) grows chiefly in the regions of Sivas and Tokat. It has pink or reddish flowers in groups of two or three. Its leaves are either sautéed or cooked.
A plant in the lily family (Liliaceae), the white to pale green stems are formed by the bases of the leaves. Traditionally used in both olive oil dishes and meat dishes, it has recently begun to be used in new and original ways in Turkish cuisine.
A vegetable belonging to the daisy family (Asteraceae) with broad green leaves generally used in salads. Romaine (or cos) lettuce is chiefly used in salads, but as it is tolerant to heat, it is also cooked in certain dishes such as kapama.
A wild-growing herb in the family Malvaceae, mallow is useful for both its flowers, which are considered medicinal, and its leaves which are eaten as greens. The plant ranges from 20-70 cm in height. Used plain or cooked in meat dishes, its leaves are mostly considered to be medicinal. It grows in nearly all parts of Turkey, but especially in the western regions.
With tens of thousands of species in nature, mushrooms are commonly cultivated today. Mushrooms are technically not a plant - they are a fungus. With its many varieties, Turkey could be considered a mushroom paradise. Although there are many different ways of preparing them, the most common method in Anatolia is to cook them directly over a flame or coals, and to season them with salt and black or red pepper. They are also added to meat or vegetarian dishes, and used in pilafs and salads.
A member of the mallow family (Malvaceae), okra can be eaten either fresh or dried. It should be picked when young, because the pods toughen as they mature. In Turkish cuisine it is used both fresh and dried in meat and olive oil dishes.
The word soğan in Turkish simply means “bulb” and thus applies to many different plants in the lily family, but here we are talking about the common onion used in cooking. It is one of the fundamental vegetables in Turkish cooking, adding sweetness to dishes. It is used at all stages, from scallions to green bulbs to the familiar dried stage. It is ubiquitously used in cooked dishes, pilafs, salads, and kebabs.
A plant with deep green veined leaves in the same family as celery and dill (Apiaceae). Its leaves are used as a flavoring herb. In Turkish cooking, parsley is utilized more as a secondary ingredient than a vegetable in and of itself. It is eaten on its own and is added to provide flavor and aroma to cooked dishes and salads.
A member of the nightshade family (Solanaceae). Many different varieties are cultivated in Turkey. The edible part is the seed pod, which is green when unripe and turns red when ripe. The veins and the seeds are generally hot. Peppers are grown almost everywhere in Turkey, with many different varieties and names reflecting variety and shape as well as use: sivri (pointed), Çarliston, süs (decorative), domates (tomato), Ayaş (the name of a town in Ankara Province), dolmalık (stuffing), red pepper, etc. In southern Anatolia it is finally chopped and made into paste.
An herbaceous plant in the nightshade family (Solanaceae) grown for its edible tubers. These tubers are rich in starch, and are an important source of nutrition. Several varieties of potatoes are grown in Turkey, and potatoes are frequently used.
A member of the Portulacaceae, purslane is rich in phosphorus. It is used in cooked dishes and when fresh it is added to salads. In Anatolia, the wild form is commonly used. There is a large-leaved cultivated form commonly available as well.
A plant in the subfamily of Chenopodiaceae with edible leaves probably originating in Central Asia. It is cultivated in many parts of Turkey and is cooked alone or with ground meat. It is also used in dishes like ıspanak kavurması, spinach with eggs, and spinach börek.
A member of the mustard family (Brassicaceae), the radish plant has broad spreading lower leaves and toothed upper leaves. The edible root may be red, black, white, or yellowish. It is generally used to accompany dishes rather than as a dish in and of itself. There is a type of radish that is used to add sweetness.
A member of the nightshade family (Solanaceae) which originated in South and Central America, tomatoes are a perennial grown as an annual in temperate climates. Although the edible part is technically a fruit as it bears the seeds of the plant, it is thought of as a vegetable. It is said to have entered Turkish cuisine only about 100 years ago, but it has a major place in Turkish cooking. It is used fresh in salads and adds flavor to many cooked dishes. In addition to ripe red tomatoes, green and yellow tomatoes are also used in Turkish cooking – as, for example, in pickles. Tomatoes are also used in the form of paste in a great many regions.
A plant in the mustard family (Brassicaceae). It is not widely used as a food in Turkey but it is known as the main ingredient in a beverage by the same name made in the Çukurova (Adana) region. Şalgam is known to enhance the appetite and is often drunk alongside rakı.
Zucchini/Courgette/Summer Squash/Winter Squash
A plant in the Cucurbitaceae, or squash family, which also includes such plants as melons, acur, and cucumbers. Many varieties of both summer and winter squash are cultivated in Turkey. The most common zucchini used in Turkey is an oblong, light green, and lightly fuzzy variety, which appears in a great many dishes. A few of these include kabaklama, karincali kabak aşı, and mücver. Winter squash are used in the preparation of sweets.
FRUITS AND DRIED FRUITS
In Turkey, every town and city have a market where you will find a wealth of fresh seasonal produce, such as plump olives and crunchy pickles, fresh figs, ruby red pomegranates, juicy ripe peaches, pungent spices, and fresh leafy herbs, which are sold like bunches of flowers.
Fruits are a huge part of Turkish cuisine as locals consume a significant amount of fruits daily. Fruits may accompany every meal and could be preferred as a snack in the afternoon or after dinner time.
Fruits are widely used in desserts by being poached and served with a spoon of kaymak.
Fruits and dried fruits are also used in vegetables, beef, or lamb stews, in olive oil-based dishes, and even in pilafs.
Make Turkish dried fruits your go-to snack!
Dried fruits and nuts occupy a special place in our culinary culture and have created their own special traditions, taking on folkloric qualities as well.
Naturally dried apricots, dried apricots, dried figs, sultana raisins, currants, golden raisins, naturally dried apples, dried mulberries, dried prunes, dried sour cherries, dried citrus fruit peels, dried strawberries, and even more!
Dried fruits contain many vitamins and minerals, and are found to be useful in many functions of the human body such as,
- regulation of the functioning of the brain, giving energy, and helping relieve stress
- helping in the function of the liver
- playing an important role in keeping bones and teeth healthy and strong
- preventing anemia by increasing the production of iron
- preventing the formation of stomach and intestinal ulcers
- providing a regulatory role in the reproductive system
- acting as a protective shield against cancer
- helping children’s growth
- curing diseases associated with inflammation
Dried fruits have many advantages. Some of these are listed below!
- Easy to store and distribute
- Available year-round
- Easily added to other foods and recipes
- Relatively low cost
- Healthy alternative to sugary snacks